Businesses offer mixed views on Panamagate verdict

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KARACHI: Stock brokers monitor share prices on Friday at the Pakistan Stock Exchange. The market opened on a jittery note as profit-taking led to an intraday loss of 1,670 points. However, optimism returned to the market afterwards, with the KSE-100 index closing up by 6.3 points.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
KARACHI: Stock brokers monitor share prices on Friday at the Pakistan Stock Exchange. The market opened on a jittery note as profit-taking led to an intraday loss of 1,670 points. However, optimism returned to the market afterwards, with the KSE-100 index closing up by 6.3 points.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KARACHI: Avoiding direct comments on the Supreme Court’s order to disqualify Nawaz Sharif in the Panamagate case, most trade and industry leaders shared mixed views and seemed apprehensive about the upcoming days.

Talking to Dawn, some leaders opined that businesses would feel the negative impact while others maintained that it would be ‘business as usual’ if the democratic set-up prevails.

While appreciating the maturity shown by political parties — for not taking to the streets after the decision was announced — the leaders said the decision-making process would remain suspended till a new prime minister and cabinet take oath.

Trade and industry leaders think the decision will help in across-the-board accountability

Without giving a direct comment on the apex court’s judgment, Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Zubair Tufail said trade and industry in general feels that last one year’s uncertainty has finally come to an end and now the economy of the country should move forward towards stability.

Mr Tufail hoped the remaining term would not see any adverse impact on the economy. “If the peacefulness continues — as witnessed immediately after the announcement of SC’s judgment — things would soon normalise,” he said.

He hoped the next set-up would give immediate attention to the issues confronting trade and industry.

While appreciating the SC’s decision, Pakistan Bedwear Exporters Association Shabir Ahmed said that no government institution has been working properly.

“I strongly feel that the SC’s judgment has made us believe that there is a rule of law in the country and no one is above the law,” he said.

This order of PM’s disqualification would send a strong message to the future governments that rule of law must prevail in Pakistan, he added.

Expressing apprehensions, Korangi Association of Trade and Industry Chairman Masood Naqi feared that trade and industry would suffer the most till a new set-up is in place.

“As of now, I don’t know with whom I should take up my issues, if any, and what would be the outcome,” he added.

For the last one year there has been a status quo because of Panamagate and now the Supreme Court has ordered immediate removal of the prime minister but not given a time frame for inducting the next set-up, he explained.

Mr Naqi said that in case the ruling party takes time in selection of the next prime minister, the formation of the new cabinet would also be delayed. “This will directly hurt trade and industry which has to run its affairs as per world commitments and time frames,” he stressed.

Similar sentiments were shared by other leaders too.

Talking to Dawn, Karachi Wholesalers Grocers Association Chairman Anis Majeed ruled out any immediate negative business repercussions. “Business activities will continue as long as concerned departments and authorities are intact,” he commented.

All Karachi Tajir Itehad President Atiq Mir claimed that traders heaved a sigh of relief following the decision of the Supreme Court.

“I think traders are now more relaxed to make future investment,” he said.

Calling it a landmark decision against corruption and one that ‘augurs well for the country’s future’, he said, “The decision would at least create panic among public sector departments to be aware of any corruption and wrongdoing and in turn the accountability process would further get strengthened.”

However, Karachi Retail Grocers Association General Secretary Farid Qureshi opined otherwise.

“In an indecisive environment, traders would suspend making future investments following Nawaz Sharif’s ouster,” he commented.

A cement maker said that even though the political uncertainty that prevailed for well over a year is over now, anxiety among businessmen will continue to prevail.

Old committed investment projects would remain intact and would be completed on time but investors may either stop making new investments or defer fresh plans, he added.

Looking upset over the new political development, Pakistan Pharma­ceutical Manufacturers Association Chairman Dr Kaiser Waheed said, “In a democratic set up parliaments mainly decide the fate of the prime minister instead of judges. The business activities will feel its heat in future.”

However, Pakistan Association of Parts and Accessories Manufacturers Association Chairman Mashood Ali Khan said the Supreme Court’s verdict may bring stability.

The economy may be hit by some short term impact like rupee-dollar difference but things would recover in the long run, he commented.

“There is a need for across the board accountability for every person belonging to both private and public sector instead of one person which started from Nawaz Sharif,” Mr Khan said.

Fearing slight unrest after Friday’s decision, Pakistan Automotive Manufacturers Association Director General Abdul Waheed Khan said things would return to normal.

He said there would be no impact on the Sino-Pak relations on the ongoing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Ruling out any major upheaval, the Papaam chief said future investment plans would remain intact as the business community and the government was already prepared for the expected decision of the Supreme Court.

Terming the Supreme Court’s decision as a right step, Association of Builders and Developers Chairman Mohsin Shekhani said there is a need for across-the-board accountability.

“I think the country and the businesses will remain in state of uncertainty for the next two to three months in which arrival of fresh investment will fall and foreign investors will adopt a wait and see attitude,” he commented.

He hoped the country would bounce back to normalcy in the long term in case of effective policies.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2017